John Harris
John Harris hardly needs an introduction, because he is known to most LA poets who know anything. First we know that deep, booming, unforgettable and above all authoritative voice.  His voice and his delivery bring his poems to life and we seem to hear ruminative jazz and we see forlorn downtown American streets and alleyways, wind blowing the trash around and face staring out the window of residential hotel.  We hear all this in his voice, but his poems live equally well on the page, where they surprise the reader with their deep, sweet nostalgia, conversational ease and determined unsentimentality.  They are unsentimental and masculine without ever displaying macho bravura.  And they’re not ashamed to do what good poetry—since the Romantics, anyway— traditionally does:  move the heart, tell a story, captivate an audience and sing.  

At 83 My Father Jogs

in first light every morning,
pocketful of pebbles for suspicious dogs,
radio clipped into sweatshirt, word
of earth’s dying lapping around the block.
He jogs each morning almost two miles,
Benson to Laurel, right on Laurel to Lodi,
Lodi to highway traffic circle,
then reverse, Lodi, Laurel, Benson, home,
in about 25 minutes, not bad for his age.
If the legs go first he may never go.
I think he’s in training for the Golden Stairs.

At 88 my father forgets my name,
forgets that I am not my brother Jim,
that Jim is not alive.
Forgets that he is father, I am son,
forgets he has already eaten,
forgets what he liked.
Forgets grandkids, holidays, seasons,
the warmth of sun and flesh and family.
He even forgets his pious rant, his clumsy humor,
forgets to shout “God loves you!”
He forgets to breathe,
forgets to waken.


2011 John Harris
John Harris was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the April 2011 Second Sunday Poetry Series